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Knowledge Management and Archivists

date: 2014-04-04 17:20:34 -0400


This semester I am teaching a knowledge management (KM) course. I will be posting entries throughout the semester that describe, critique, summarize, outline, etc. KM articles that my students are not reading. The purpose here is to leverage the amount of material I can expose them to.

Article under discussion:

This post is about:

Yakel, E. (2000). Knowledge management: The archivist's and records manager's perspective. International Management Journal, 34(3), 24-30.1)

The article was picked after a simple web search for these terms: knowledge management archivists and selecting the article after recognizing the author's name.

Notes and discussion:

I haven't read any literature before that discusses both archival work and knowledge management, and I told someone I would try to find an article that covers both areas. The article I selected turned out to be a little surprising. Rather than an article about how archivists manage their own knowledge within their own organizations, which is what I expected to find for no apparent reason, the article turned out to be about how archivists and records managers can use their skills to enhance knowledge management within their organizations and also, how doing so would be strategically advantageous for them.

The article begins by arguing that archivists and records managers should make sure to develop a perception of themselves as more than “information providers and curators of data” (p. 24) and to take advantage of new ways of visualizing their mission in order to promote organizational learning. The key here is organizational learning.

For example:

Records management professionals must therefore become aware of how and when records are used — and could be used — rather than merely managing them (p. 27).

There is a big challenge here, and it's largely the same challenge librarians face. Yakel points out that a significant amount if not the majority of information and knowledge sharing happens in face to face and similar social interactions. Thus, for records management professionals and archivists, “the real challenge” is

to insinuate themselves into such conversations (p. 28).

And to do so using the documentary system that they are responsible for and have mastery over. It is, as Yakel notes, a powerful position, but figuring out how to add this material into the workflow is no easy task.

In fact, it highlights the difficulty of what to do with not just explicit, codified knowledge (i.e., making sure that knowledge is easily found, used, and so forth), but of what to do with explicit, codified knowledge that has aged and has been forgotten about for some reason or other.

In the end, the challenge for archivists, records managers, and even librarians is how to make the codified knowledge that they are responsible for seem as alive, relevant, and pertinent to their respective communities as the more social day to day interaction seems.

  • categories:
    • academic libraries
    • knowledge management
    • LIS658
blog/knowledge-management-and-archivists.txt · Last modified: 2017/03/07 11:39 by seanburns